The McMaster Teen Program is a primary prevention program
for students in grades 7 and 8 based on a cognitive-behavioral model for
preventing unwanted adolescent pregnancy. The program seeks to provide
information and teach decision-making and problem-solving skills, but does not
cover contraception. A large-scale evaluation of the program’s
effectiveness found that the program had no positive impact on whether students
practiced abstinence, used contraception, or became pregnant. The program
actually had a negative impact on boys; boys in schools that taught the
McMaster curriculum were actually significantly more likely to start having sex
than were boys in control schools.
DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM
Target population: 7th and 8th
The McMaster curriculum consists of ten hour-long
sessions. These sessions deal with adolescent development, peer pressure,
gender roles, responsibility in development, physical intimacy, and teen
pregnancy. Sessions also address problem-solving and decision-making as
they pertain to sexual choices and activities. Contraceptive methods and
their use are not discussed. Program activities include group discussion,
role play, film presentations, and question and answer periods.
EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM
Evaluated population: 21 schools from Hamilton, Ontario,
selected to take part in this study. 3290 of the 7th and 8th
grade students from these schools received parental consent to
participate. Approximately 25% of these students came from homes where
English was not the first language.
Approach: 11 schools were randomly assigned to the
treatment condition. 7th and 8th grade students in
these schools took part in the McMaster Teen Program. Students were
broken into co-educational groups of six to eight and received the curriculum
over a six to eight week period. Groups were led by tutors who had
received 40 hours of training in the curriculum.
The remaining 10 schools served as a control group. 7th
and 8th grade students in these schools received the conventional
sex education program proscribed by the board of education. This
conventional program was didactic in nature and dealt with anatomy and the
changes that accompany puberty.
All students completed surveys on their past sexual behavior
before the intervention began. Students were followed for four to five
years and completed four annual follow-up surveys during this time. Over
90% of the students completed the first and second follow-up surveys and
between 80% and 88% of students completed the third and fourth follow-up
Results: The McMaster Teen Program failed to impact
birth control use among sexually active students. Students in treatment
schools were no more likely to use birth control than were students in control
schools. Further, the program failed to positively impact whether students
practiced abstinence. While girls in treatment schools were just as
likely to become sexually active as were girls in control schools, boys in
treatment schools were actually significantly more likely to start having sex
than were boys in control schools. (It bears noting that boys in the
experimental group were more likely to have had sex at baseline as well.)
Girls in treatment schools were also just as likely to become pregnant as were
girls in control schools.
SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION
Thomas, B.H. et al. (1992). Small Group Sex Education
at School: The McMaster Teen Program. In Miller, B.C. et al. (Eds.), Preventing
Adolescent Pregnancy: Model Programs and Evaluations (pp. 28-52). Thousand Oaks, CA:
Sage Publications, Inc.
Program materials are not available for purchase.
Skills, Teen Pregnancy, Sexual Initiation, Reproductive Health, Cognitive
Development, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, Tutoring, Adolescence
(12-17), Adolescent, School-Based.
Program information last updated on